South America-is a continent located in the western hemisphere, mostly in the southern hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the northern hemisphere. It may also be considered a subcontinent of the Americas, which is how it is viewed in the Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas. The reference to South America instead of other regions (like Latin America or the Southern Cone) has increased in the last decades due to changing geopolitical dynamics (in particular, the rise of Brazil).
It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. It includes twelve sovereign states (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela), a part of France (French Guiana), and a non-sovereign area (the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory though this is disputed by Argentina). In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Panama may also be considered part of South America.
Brazil a vast South American country, stretches from the Amazon Basin in the north to vineyards and massive Iguaçu Falls in the south. Rio de Janeiro, symbolized by its 38m Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado, is famed for its busy Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as well as its enormous, raucous Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes, and samba music and dance. Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to some of the world’s most metropolitan cities, but this is just the beginning. The world famous Carnival takes place every year where millions dance, samba, and party the days away. Wildlife fans will enjoy exploring the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rainforest, while those who enjoy colonial architecture and historic cities will revel in the chance to visit Salvador. Throw in beaches, soccer, beautiful people, and cheap prices, and it’s pretty easy to convince someone this is a country worth seeing.
Argentina is a massive South American nation with terrain encompassing Andes mountains, glacial lakes and Pampas grassland, the traditional grazing ground of its famed beef cattle. The country is famous for tango dance and music. Its big, cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires, is centered on the Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the iconic, balconied presidential palace.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the country. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the respective consulate or embassy website.
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options. Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette, and how shoppers can take advantage of VAT refunds.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things do & see:
Fútbol – Soccer is religion here, and going to a match is one of the most entertaining things you can do in Brazil. Maracana is one of the largest stadiums in the world and seats 100,000 supporters. With the 2016 Olympics turning the world’s attention to the country, soccer fever is all the rage. Take in a match if you can.
Rio Carnival – The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous parties in the world. Music and dancing take over the streets with thousands of people enjoying the celebrations before the start of the somber period of Lent. Prices during this festival triple and you need to book months in advance, but it’s worth every penny to experience the local flavor.
Florianópolis – In southern Brazil, this place is composed mostly of the island of Ilha de Santa Catarina. Florianópolis, or Floripa for short, has been attracting surfers and sun worshippers for years. It has become one of Brazil’s most popular beach destinations and is famous for its massive parties. Floripa is the ideal location for fun in the sun, offering visitors an endless array of beaches, excellent seafood, quaint Azorean fishing villages, and awesome nightlife. It’s an especially popular stop for young travelers seeking fun.
Fernando de Noronha – This is an archipelago of volcanic islands 220 miles off the Brazilian coast. Fernando de Noronha was Brazil’s first Marine Park (70% of the island is protected) and has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beaches are fantastic and largely deserted as only 420 people are permitted on the island at a time. This place has recently become a haven for Brazilian celebrities, and as a result, prices have gone up a bit. If you’re looking for a deserted island experience with a bit of luxury, then Noronha is the place for you.
Rio de Janeiro – Rio is the 5th largest city in the world and has so much to offer visitors that it will take you weeks to scratch the surface. Head up Corcovado to take in the statue of Christ the Redeemer and an amazing view of the city. Additionally, Rio has more museums than you could imagine, as well as endless beaches, parties, food, lively locals, and much more. It’s a great (albeit slightly expensive) city.
Iguacu Fall – Known as ‘Iguazu Falls’ to the Argentines, these magnificent waterfalls lie across the border from Argentina and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The falls are higher than and twice as wide as Niagra Falls and one of the country’s best natural wonders. 450,000 cubic feet of water thunder down the 275 cascades every second.
Brasilia – Although not as famous as Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia is definitely worth a visit. The city was inaugurated in 1960 and is a masterpiece of modernist architecture, attracting aficionados the world over. The city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pantanal– These are the largest wetlands in the world, located in the west, stretching into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. As can be expected, the Pantanal is a wildlife watcher’s dream come true. Over 11,000 species of animal live in the wetlands, from the rare Marsh Deer to the Giant Anteater and the Hyacinth Macaw.
Amazonia National Park – The Amazon covers 8% of the earth’s surface but is home to 50% of its biodiversity. The Amazonia National Park is almost 40% of the nation’s landmass and is perfect for birdwatching, trekking, and kayaking. There are many points of entry, chances to go hiking, camping, and river tours. No trip to Brazil is complete without seeing the Amazon.
Recife – Recife is home to some of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches and is the second largest city on the country’s northeastern coast. The city’s historical center is extremely beautiful with dozens of restaurants and quaint establishments. Head to nearby Olinda, a colonial city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
Salvador – Visit Brazil’s first city and cultural capital, Salvador on the country’s northeast coast. Also known as the ‘capital of happiness’, visitors enjoy the city’s easy-going atmosphere and colonial architecture. The colonial center of Perlourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo is the third largest city in the world and the largest in South America, home to over 17 million people. Visitors to this expansive city can enjoy world class nightlife, music, and cuisine. While it lacks the charm of Rio.
Manaus Opera House– The Amazon theater is located in the heart of Manaus. Built in 1896, it strongly reflects the Italian Renaissance influence from the time. It has been featured in several movies.
Dancing Capoeira – This Afro-Brazilian martial art is a “war dance” practiced and performed by thousands of people throughout the country. If you aren’t too embarrassed to try it out, it’s a memorable experience for everyone involved.
The Manaus Municipal Market – Located in Manaus, this building is right on the bank of the Rio Negro and covers 12,000 square meters. Many locals come here for their daily shopping. You can find almost anything you can imagine—fish, caimans, turtles, fruit, wine, and knick-knacks.
Buenos Aires – Nicknamed the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires is an amazing city with a lot of class and culture. There is fantastic nightlife, food, and shopping! Everyone here loves to eat and drink and does so late into the night! You’ll hear music blasting throughout the city, everyone here dresses well, and it’s cafe culture will make you feel in Europe. This is a city to wine, dine, and relax in.
Train to the Clouds – Sure, it’s a train built for tourists and crazily overpriced, but taking this train through the clouds and lush forest is so breathtaking I don’t mind. This is a 400 kilometer, 16 hour round trip into the Andes from the town of Salta. As the train climbs to 4200 meters, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular mountain, forests, and valleys. Operation is seasonal, so be sure to check before you decide to go.
Iguazu Waterfalls – These falls are higher and twice as wide as the Niagara (which astounded me having seen both, I still can’t believe how much water comes out of Iguazu), so the area has been nicknamed “Niagara on Viagra”. With 450,000 cubic feet of water thundering down the 275 cascades every second, its pretty easy to see why! You can find several types of guided trips leaving from Buenos Aires online, or just go on the local bus yourself. It costs 60 ARS (4 USD) to enter the Iguazú National Park for foreigners. It’s 100000% one of the best things in Argentina to see!
Visit a winery – Argentina is one of the most famous wine-making regions in the world, and a trip to a winery is a must for fans of wine. If you’re a real wine connoisseur, the Wine Harvest Festival (“Fiesta de la Vendimia”) is held in February and March every year and has Tango, ethnic dance, and colorful parades. Mendoza is the most famous wine region in the country, and the best spot to check out for first timers. There are a lot of tours that will take you to a few wineries, talk about wine production, and give you free samples.
Mendoza – Mendoza is famous for its wine, steak, and beautiful landscape. You don’t come here for the city – you come for the mountains and wineries surrounding the region. I spent over a week here biking around wineries, hiking mountains, visiting canyons, and gorging on steak and wine. The city makes for a good base for lots of activities and if you love wine, come to this region and drink its famous Malbecs.
Cerro Aconcagua – At almost 7,000 meters tall, Cerro Aconcagua is not only the country’s highest mountain, but also the highest in the Western Hemisphere. This climb isn’t for the faint hearted and is probably only for those very experienced, as it’s estimated to take 2 weeks to reach the summit and acclimatize to the altitude!
Valle de la Luna – Translated as ‘valley of the moon’, this dramatic landscape dates back to the Triassic period. Winds and rain have carved the rocks into strange formations which gives this place the look of a lunar landscape. Despite the arid conditions, the area is great for wildlife spotting as it’s home to foxes, owls, armadillos, and condors.
Perito Moreno Glacier – Located within the expansive Los Glaciares National Park is the impressive Perito Moreno glacier. The glacier is almost 15,000 feet wide and 200 feet tall, and one of the coolest sights I’ve ever seen. You can hike on the glacier (it’s epic) or take up close boat ride.
San Rafael – Located a few hours from Mendoza, this tiny little town (don’t expect to do much after sunset or on a Sunday!) is a wonderful place to see wineries, go on a bike ride, or explore the nearby stunning Atuel Canyon.
Ushuaia – Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and the largest city in Tierra del Fuego. This is a very popular town for travelers coming to the end of their South American journey, or for those traveling to Antarctica (this is the launch point for all Antarctica cruises). The city is picturesque with its colorful clapboard houses and the Andes as the backdrop.
Learn to tango – Argentina is famous for the tango, and you’re bound to run into it everywhere you go with people practicing in the streets – literally! There are many studios that offer lessons if you want to learn and plenty of places to watch the natives dance away. If you find yourself smitten with a beautiful local, you don’t stand a chance if you don’t try their native step. Be bold and give it a shot-the tango is in their soul.
Whale watching – From June to December, whale watching season in Patagonia is at its peak as the whales make their way to the coast to mate. Whale watching is an expensive excursion, but well worth it during this migration time when you’re guaranteed to spot a few whales.
Quebrada de Humhuaca – A deep valley carved out by the Rio Grande, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is an area rich in ancient Incan history and culture. Exploring the colonial streets and architecture of Humahuaza, as well as the surrounding area, is an amazing adventure.
Cajon del Azul – Located in El Bolson, a “hippie” town near the Andes Mountains, The Blue Canyon boasts beautiful translucent turquoise waters that are flanked by rustic suspension bridges, alcoves and cliffs. It’s a little more deserted than other natural reserves in Argentina. If you go, this area is worth spending at least a few days in.
Salta – Salta is a little town with outstanding museums, plaza-side cafes, and live folk music tradition. It preserved a lot more colonial architecture than other cities so walking around it is like stepping back in time. It’s great stopover on your way from Buenos Aires to Mendoza.
Casa Rosada – Dominating the city’s Plaza de Mayo is Casa Rosada, arguably the city’s most notable landmark. The building has played a starring role in the country’s history, quite literally. It was where Madonna re-enacted Eva Perón’s addressing of the crowds of workers in Evita.
La Recoleta Cemetery – It might seem a bit morbid to visit a cemetery for pleasure, but Recoleta is one of the city’s most visited attractions. The cemetery is the final resting place of many of the city’s most notable citizens, including Eva Perón and the Paz family. Also worth seeing is the tomb of Rufina Cambaceres, who was tragically buried alive according to legends.
San Ignacio Miní – Located in San Iganacio, these mission ruins are the most complete in Argentina and have a lot of carved ornamentation still visible. These ruins are pretty amazing and look like something out of historic Europe! The visitor center has a lot of background information on the old mission, and the ruins have interactive panels.